Ed Newton-Rex was the founder and CEO of Jukedeck, one of the first startups to develop a product for AI-generated music. We say ‘was’ because since April 2019, he has been working for TikTok’s parent company Bytedance as director of its AI Lab, according to his recently-updated LinkedIn profile. And that’s because Bytedance acquired Jukedeck earlier this year.
There has been gossip about the acquisition for a few weeks now – hardly a surprise, given that the company shared offices with several other music-industry companies at The Ministry in London.
After being tipped off about Newton-Rex’s new role, Music Ally checked LinkedIn this morning and found several of his colleagues have also updated their profiles to reflect new roles at Bytedance.
For example: David Trevelyan and Pierre Chanquion (previously senior software engineers, music production R&D at Jukedeck; now senior software engineers at Bytedance’s AI Lab); Katerina Kosta and Gabriele Medeot (formerly machine learning researchers at Jukedeck; now senior machine learning researchers at Bytedance); and Marco Selvi (formerly senior software engineer and machine learning researcher at Jukedeck; now senior machine learning researcher at Bytedance);
Jukedeck’s website (including its ‘Make’ tool for creating AI tracks) has been taken offline, with its homepage replaced by a message saying “We can’t tell you more just yet, but we’re looking forward to continuing to fuel creativity using musical AI!” – which makes it clear that music will continue to be a focus for the team within Bytedance.
When Music Ally interviewed Newton-Rex in August 2017, he talked about the idea of AI-music at mass scale. “What really drives us is two main things. First, you can democratise music. As soon as AI understands a bit more about how to write music, you can put that power into a lot more people’s hands. People who aren’t classically-educated can play and tinker with music, which is really exciting,” he said at the time.
“The other side is the personalisation aspect, in terms of consuming music. Recorded [human] music is brilliant and will never die out, and it won’t be replaced by AI. But once you have AI, you can really personalise the way music is consumed. You can give every person in the world their own personal composer, and music can respond to anything from their environment to their mood or their calendar. It’s those twin goals of democratisation and personalisation that get us out of bed in the morning.”
Now he and his colleagues are getting out of bed in the morning to work at TikTok’s parent company, which is certainly upping its efforts around music. Indeed, one of Newton-Rex’s latest actions on LinkedIn was to like a post by former YouTube music-rights management staffer Taylor Fife, who said: “Less than 48 hours in and I’m already cranking away at music rights and metadata issues for TikTok and ByteDance’s other apps”.
Fife’s post noted that other former YouTube colleagues working for Bytedance/TikTok include director of music operations Ben Markowitz; senior director of strategic partnerships Isaac Bess, senior music ops manager, EMEA, Ben Craven; and head of global marketing Stefan Heinrich Henriquez.
That’s certainly interesting on the music-licensing side of the business, but today’s news that one of the world’s AI-generated-music experts is now also part of the Bytedance family is just as intriguing.